FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 35CR-99-825]
HONORABLE JODI RAINES DENNIS, JUDGE
Melissa Sawyer, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Michael A. Hylden, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
MARK KLAPPENBACH, Judge
Myers appeals from the order of the Jefferson County Circuit
Court denying his petition to terminate his obligation to
register as a sex offender. On appeal, Myers contends that
the circuit court erred in concluding that he had committed
an aggravated sex offense and was thus not eligible to have
his obligation terminated. We agree with Myers and reverse
2000, Myers pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in the second
degree, a Class A misdemeanor. He was placed on probation for
twelve months and ordered to register as a sex offender.
After registering for more than fifteen years, Myers filed a
petition in 2016 to terminate his obligation to register
pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated section 12-12-919 (Repl.
2016). This statute provides that fifteen years after having
been released from incarceration or after having been placed
on probation, a sex offender may petition the court to
terminate his or her obligation to register upon proof by a
preponderance of the evidence that the applicant has not been
adjudicated guilty of a sex offense during the past fifteen
years and is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of
others. Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-919(b). However, lifetime
registration is required for certain categories of sex
offenders, including a sex offender who was found to have
committed an aggravated sex offense. Ark. Code Ann. §
12-12-919(a)(1). The State contended that Myers was subject
to lifetime registration because he had committed an
aggravated sex offense by engaging in a sexual act with a
person younger than twelve years of age.
a hearing, the circuit court entered an order denying
Myers's petition. The court concluded that Myers had
committed an aggravated sex offense, which is defined as
"an offense in the Arkansas Code substantially
equivalent to 'aggravated sexual abuse' as defined in
18 U.S.C. § 2241 as it existed on March 1, 2003."
Ark. Code Ann. § 12-12-903(3). The court's order
stated as follows:
The federal statute contains several methods under which an
offense is aggravated sexual abuse. The applicable definition
for this case is 18 U.S.C. § 2241(a)(1) which states
that aggravated sexual abuse is committed when a person
knowingly causes another person to engage in a sexual act by
using force against that other person.
court then determined that Myers's offense, sexual abuse
in the second degree, met the requirements of a sexual act
committed by force and was thus an aggravated sex offense.
appeal, Myers argues that the circuit court erred in its
interpretation of what constitutes an aggravated sex offense
under Arkansas Code Annotated section 12-12-903(3). We review
questions of statutory interpretation de novo and construe
criminal statutes strictly, resolving any doubts in favor of
the defendant. Davis v. State, 94 Ark.App. 240, 228
S.W.3d 529 (2006). We also adhere to the basic rule of
statutory construction, which is to give effect to the intent
of the legislature. Id. We construe the statute just
as it reads, giving the words their ordinary and usually
accepted meaning in common language, and if the language of
the statute is plain and unambiguous and conveys a clear and
definite meaning, there is no occasion to resort to rules of
statutory interpretation. Id. Additionally, in
construing any statute, we place it beside other statutes
relevant to the subject matter in question and ascribe
meaning and effect to be derived from the whole. Id.
In interpreting a statute, we construe it so that no word is
left void, superfluous, or insignificant, and we give meaning
and effect to every word in the statute, if possible.
Burgess v. State, 2016 Ark. 175, 490 S.W.3d 645.
Myers argues that the circuit court erred in defining
"force" in a way that nullified another subsection
of the aggravated-sexual-abuse statute, and he claims that
the court should have defined it to mean physical force.
Myers contends that he did not commit any acts of force to
engage the victim in sexual contact. The State does not
address Myers's arguments but instead claims that the
circuit court merely found that he had failed to prove that
he was not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others.
disagree with the State. It is abundantly clear from the
circuit court's order that the sole basis for the denial
of the petition was the finding that, as argued by the State
below, Myers had committed an aggravated sex offense and was
subject to lifetime registration. The circuit court ruled on
the force issue as follows:
The second requirement for sexual abuse in the second degree
to be aggravated sexual abuse, a defendant must have
committed the crime by using force. David Myers committed
sexual abuse in the second degree when he engaged in sexual
contact with a person not his spouse who was less than 14
years old. The State advises that the victim was six years
Myers argues that he was not accused of using physical force;
therefore, the offense is not one that requires lifetime
registration. Neither the federal nor state statute includes
the term physical. The use of the term force without limiting
it by a modifier indicates that the legislative intent is to
include all of the types of force a person can employ to
obtain his goal. Force includes the ability to sway or
influence. Crimes committed against children have been
enacted embracing the opinion that ...